Creative Writing and Publishing MA

Postgraduate (12 months, 15 months full-time, part-time)


September, January

Intermediate award: PG Cert

Course duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

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Whether you want to join the traditional publishing industry, establish your own small press or set up a single-author imprint for your own novels, this fully-customisable course will prepare you for work in these increasingly entwined growth industries.

Find out more about teaching options and studying during COVID-19 in the Entry requirements section, below.

Full description


Our MA Creative Writing and Publishing will prepare you for employment in whichever aspect of the writing and publishing industries most interests you. Throughout the course, you will develop many transferable academic and professional skills, including self-reflection, critical analysis, and working to briefs and deadlines, as well as the research skills necessary for producing creative works, professional publishing documents and critical writing.

Many of our previous MA Creative Writing students have achieved successful careers in publishing or writing, including Costa Short Story winner 2019 Caroline Ward Vine; Guinevere Glasfurd (winner of The Times 'Book of the Month' for her debut novel The Words In My Hand); Penny Hancock (Tideline; The Darkening Hour) and Natalya Anderson (winner of the Bridport Prize for Poetry 2014).

Our MA Publishing graduates also have a track record of success, with most now in publishing-related careers at companies such as Bloomsbury, Wiley Capstone, Pearson, Cambridge University Press and Macmillan.

You might also decide to move on to a research degree after graduating, such as our PhD Creative Writing or PhD Publishing.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • Readers and Reading Culture
    Before we were writers or publishers, we were readers. Our ambitions to create and share literary works are in constant dialogue with our own histories as readers as well as changing markets, technologies, and cultures of reading. In this module you, as a writer/publisher, will focus on how your works reach and are interpreted by readers, how interaction with readers and reading communities shapes what you create, and how we as individuals author our own reading lives and literary identities. With your tutor and seminar group you will begin by examining theories of reading and the relationship of individual readers to texts and authors. You will continue to the study of readers as members of interpretive communities, looking at canon formation and literary cultures and subcultures. Finally, you will fold in paratexts and commercial markets, and consider what Genette calls the ‘transaction’ between authors, publishers, and readers to establish what a text is and how it is to be read. Through discussion, weekly reading, small-group work, and an unmarked in-class presentation, you will explore different perspectives on what it means to write and publish for a certain readership and develop your own ideas and creative responses. Your assessment may take the form of an academic essay on a topic related to what you have studied in class, or a creative work (literary or commercial, as in the case of a business plan) accompanied by a critical commentary detailing how you as a writer/publisher have addressed questions of readership.
  • Major Project
    This module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.

Optional modules: choose three (at least one from Publishing and one from Creative Writing)

  • Creativity and Content in Publishing
    You will cover issues, principles and practices related to the research, commissioning, preparation and packaging of publishing products and services in a variety of formats and on various platforms. You will consider the importance of determining the strategic direction of a publisher's list, the publisher's relationship with content creators, and the need for quality control in managing editorial projects. The module will introduce you to the world of contemporary publishing and the importance of different media markets. You will also be introduced to the processes by which publishers work with authors and designers in the preparation of text and images for publication in both print and electronic formats. Workshops will cover commissioning and editorial skills and in further sessions you will address issues such as marketing and the making of effective presentations. Industry specialists will be brought in where appropriate to introduce you to case studies in order to illustrate salient contemporary content management issues. The module will conclude with student group presentations of new product proposals. For assessment you will complete an editorial plan to present a new publishing idea. You will work in a group to submit an acquisitions proposal comprising appropriate documentation and graphics, as well as an assessed presentation.
  • Legal Rights and Data Issues in Publishing
    You will cover issues, principles and practices related to the national and international legal environment in which publishing operates, and focus on the management, sale and licensing of rights in publishing, including predominant contemporary concerns about digital rights. You will also look at wider issues connected to digital publishing and how creative practice can be developed to make the most of the opportunities created by digital formats. You will become familiar with publishing contracts and rights negotiations for text, images and other creations. Also of vital importance will be other subsidiary rights, specifically the international market in translation rights and international co-editions. This learning will be supported by Workshops that will enable you to learn professional skills needed to negotiate rights purchase and sales, and to develop international co-editions. Further workshops will cover creative approaches to digital publishing environments. For your assessment you will take a short in-class test on legal publishing issues, and will prepare and present a paper at an internally organised symposium on Digital Publishing ideas.
  • The Business of Publishing
    You will cover issues, principles and practices related to the management of publishing organisations as well as marketing in a publishing context, finally coming to an understanding of how publishing operates across various platforms. You will focus on the need to understand the competitive media environment. You will also explore organisational and management issues, and will be introduced to marketing principles and the skill of writing business plans. You will become familiar with different publishing organisations. You will also explore the variety of strategies employed by publishers and related businesses in order to successfully market their products. Industry specialists may introduce you to case studies in order to illustrate relevant contemporary industry issues. For your assessment you will complete an analysis of marketing strategies, based on sound marketing principles (e.g. segmentation, targeting, positioning, and list building policies), and conduct an analytical study of annual publishing finance reports.
  • Production Processes in Publishing
    You will look at the design, production and distribution of publishing products and services in a variety of formats and on various platforms. You will become familiar with the processes and technologies used to transform a manuscript or data file into a print or digital publication suitable for audiences in local and international markets, as well as the relevant project management tools and methods. To help you understand and analyse aspects of the production process, you will attend a combination of lectures and seminars, while workshops will enable you to learn the practical skills you will need for working in a publishing environment. Using industry standard software and practices, you will learn how to take a project from initial briefing through to its distribution, covering specific production requirements for print and digital products and services. You might also have the chance to visit a printing works or publishing house. For your assessment you will undertake two written assignments: one will focus on an understanding of the design and production process, and the other will take the form of a portfolio of evidence of your work which will critically analyse and evaluate a chosen part of the process.
  • Patterns of Story: Fiction and its Forms
    This module is a literary history course for writers. You will examine the history of the novel from its formation in the 18th Century through to some of its more modern forms, exploring along the way some of the cultural and social contexts that have helped to shape these changing patterns of story. Your studies will include some narrative theory. Through reading and discussing recent and classic books on the history and structure of the novel, by writers such as Jane Smiley, Christopher Booker, John Mullen and Dorothea Brande, you will consider what it means to write novels and what it means to be a writer, and the ways in which some contemporary writers use and reuse much older forms of storytelling and patterns of story. You will be assessed through a 6000-word essay on an aspect of narrative form that will incorporate samples of your creative writing.
  • Workshop: the Novel
    On this module, you will study and practice the techniques of novel writing in peer-discussion workshops. Outside of these workshops, you will complete samples of your own novel, which will be presented to your fellow students and module tutors during the workshop, allowing you to receive a range of feedback on your writing. You will undertake smaller writing exercises during workshop time, but will also receive longer writing exercises to consolidate what has been done in class. You will undertake a series of structured exercises designed to develop your techniques in, for instance, characterisation, dialogue, and the selection and effectiveness of different points of view, setting. You will also read extracts from a number of well-known novels to underpin these discussions of techniques. The module will also incorporate practical advice about agents, the marketplace and how to get your work published. You will be assessed through the portfolio of writing of up to 4,000 words that you produce during the module, and a critical commentary of 2,000 words.
  • Workshop: the Short Story
    On this workshop-based module you will study and practice the techniques of short story writing. To maximise the use of group feedback and feedback from the tutor you will undertake many exercises in workshop time, but also longer writing exercises to consolidate what you have done in class. You will undertake a series of structured exercises designed to develop your techniques in, for instance, characterisation, dialogue, plot structure, time frames and time sequencing with a particular emphasis placed on how these techniques differ from those used in novel writing. You will read short stories from a range of classic and contemporary short story writers such as Chekhov, Henry James and Alice Munro and the work of other writers featured on the East of the Web short story website. As the module progresses you will be expected to reflect critically both on your own writing and that of your peers. This module will also incorporate practical advice on agents, the marketplace, writing competitions and how to get writing published. You will be assessed through the portfolio of writing of up to 4,000 words and a critical commentary of up to 2,000 words.
  • Special Topic in Creative Writing/English Literature
    This module will give you the opportunity to study a particular topic or genre taught by a practising writer with current or recent work in this area. The texts will include those written for adults and children or young adults that share the focus. You might study a particular subgenre such as historical fantasy or weird fiction, or a particular topic such as the apocalypse or time travel. The module will include close reading of the texts, instruction and discussion on how to write in the particular genre, and workshopping of your writing. You will be assessed by means of a final 4,500-word portfolio of creative writing appropriate to the special topic and a critical commentary of 2,000 words. Please note all students wishing to enrol in this module must submit a short writing sample to get approval from the module leader.


Modules are subject to change and availability.

You will be assessed using methods that allow you to demonstrate the learning outcomes essential for your professional development. Depending on the module, these could include traditional essays, creative work (usually accompanied by a critical commentary) or publishing-specific forms such as book proposals and marketing plans.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

Using our creative expertise and industry connections in Cambridge and beyond, we create experiences that entertain, educate, inspire and improve lives.

At Cambridge School of Creative Industries, we believe in the importance of experimentation and risk-taking to create experiences that entertain, educate, inspire and improve lives.

Whether writing bestselling fiction, creating challenging documentaries or sharing a piano with people on the autism spectrum, the expertise of our staff goes far beyond teaching. Their research produces significant funding success, leading to important publications and international conferences.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Events and short courses

You will be able to take part in all the events arranged for our MA Creative Writing and MA Publishing students, such as guest lectures, masterclasses and work placements. You can also attend all our publishing short courses for a discounted fee.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK students starting 2021/22 (per year)


UK students starting 2021/22 (part-time, per year)


International students starting 2021/22 (per year)


International students starting 2021/22 (part-time, per year)


Important fee notes

The part-time course fee assumes that you're studying at half the rate of a full-time student (50% intensity). Course fees will be different if you study over a longer period. All fees are for guidance purposes only.

How do I pay my fees?

UK students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments – though you won't need to pay until you've accepted an offer to study with us.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees

Funding for postgraduate students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our finance guide for postgraduate students to learn more about postgraduate loans and other funding options.

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships and bursaries, which provide extra financial support while you're at university.

International students

As well as a number of scholarships, we offer an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

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After you’ve submitted your online application form we’ll also ask you to supply a writing portfolio, consisting of 2,000 to 3,000 words of your recent writing. This will ideally include some fiction. You may choose to submit a single short story, an extract from a larger work such as a novel, or a collection of shorter pieces, such as a few poems, a segment of a feature-length screenplay, and a piece of flash fiction.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

Due to the national lockdown all universities in England, including ARU, are only able to provide face to face teaching on campus for a limited number of courses.

Teaching options when not in a lockdown

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic all our students can choose to either study face to face on campus or online only, and students are able to change their mode of delivery at given dates throughout the trimester.

For on-campus teaching, we offer at least four hours face-to-face teaching related contact time per week for our undergraduate full-time courses, supported by online learning using our established online learning systems. The number of contact hours vary course by course, and you can contact us for further information. The provision offered is subject to change due to the possibility of further Government restrictions, however we remain committed to delivering face-to-face teaching and ensuring a COVID-19 secure environment.

In the event that there are further changes to the current restrictions that are in place due to the pandemic, we may need to move some courses online only at short notice to remain in line with Government guidelines and ensure the continued safety of our students and staff.

National lockdown (from 5 January 2021) 

View the impact of the current restrictions

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